Recognizing student and teacher contributions to gastroschisis.

Avery’s Angels recognizes the contributions to gastroschisis awareness and research made by Sonia Mendoza and Jennifer Huaracha Hernandez. We want to commend Jennifer Huaracha Hernandez for doing her student research on gastroschisis as it is a rare disease and we do need more non-affected individuals interested and researching it, and that is so important in our young student population as well. We also wanted to thank Sonia Mendoza for encouraging this interest in young students in her community. The two ladies, along with other teachers and students, are featured in The Selma Enterprise article titled Students job-shadow doctors, vets by Laura Brown.

July 26, 2017

SELMA – For the incoming seniors enrolled in the Doctors Academy at Selma High, this summer has been an experience they’ve been anticipating for the past three years.

The students have been job-shadowing medical professionals for the past six weeks, learning everything from brain surgery to treating pets who about to have surgery.

In their fifth week, the DA students gathered at Selma High’s library to practice presenting weeks of research before a symposium that took place July 20.

While Research Instructor Sonia Mendoza gave the students — some from Selma High and others from Caruthers High — final instructions on formatting tri-fold bulletins for the symposium, the students talked about their research topics and their experiences during their clinical internships.

Some say they are definitely going into the area they’ve researched. Others say they are still deciding, and that is part of the experience, too.

Mendoza herself just earned her biology degree at California State University, Fresno, and said she can see the difference enrollment in the DA academy is making for the students.

“Medicine requires a well-rounded individual who has good personable skills, as well as the academic portion,” she said. “They’re beginning to exude this confidence and understand health care and health disparities. All this requires an innate sense of passion to facilitate that, especially here in this Valley. So they’re gaining exposure with the dual component of the clinical experience along with this research.”

Mendoza says the program is meant to be challenging and helps the students realize how much studying is ahead if they continue to study medicine.

“They’ll have to be able to write 12- or 20-page papers, so the secondary research is good because it’s allowing them to investigate what all the journal articles say and indicate. It teaches them those skills now and provides a foundation,” she said. “When they enter college, they’ll remember how to do this. Especially if they want to be a science, biology, chemistry, physics or environmental science major. You’re required to write tons of papers in all your research lab courses.”

At one table, Selma High’s Harsimran Bassi, Jennifer Huaracha Hernandez, Alexsa Sarente and Caruthers High’s Cody Robinson and Navkaran Gurm were putting the final touches on their research documents. Before getting to work on their displays, the students shared their research topics and the insights they learned during their clinical job-shadowing experiences.

Bassi looked into the incidents of children younger than five who suffered a severe scald. She’s been shadowing Community Regional Medical Center’s Burn Unit and Medical Director Dr. William Dominic this summer.

“Essentially I do everything he does,” she said. “In the mornings, we do rounds and visit patients. We’ll see how their wounds are progressing and then go to the outpatient clinic. If there’s a surgery that day, I’ll be in on the surgery.”

Bassi gets to stand right next to either the circulator nurse who hands the doctor the sterilized equipment or next to the anesthesiologist to observe the procedure that day.

“I’m as hands-on as a high school student can get,” she said, calling the experience a privilege. “Everyone has a passion for something, and I enjoy watching surgery.”

Bassi said she eventually wants to work in pediatric care, as she appreciates their resiliency and enjoys the idea of being part of the healing process.

“Sometimes it does look gruesome, but you don’t focus on that,” she said. “I focus on the person. I get along with children since they’re way more resilient and have a positive outlook on life.”

Overall, Bassi says visiting college campuses has been one perk to the DA program that she’s especially grateful for.

“It’s more exposure, because reading about or hearing about a college is way different than going to the campus itself,” she said.

Hernandez, meanwhile, has spent six weeks job-shadowing Registered Nurse Debora Redondo, who works in an operating room at CRMC. Hernandez did her research about a rare childhood disease, gastroschisis, where a growing fetus’ intestines develop outside of the baby’s body.

“I’m interested in pediatric surgery and I was looking for conditions that aren’t really common. This came up and I was really interested,” she said.

Hernandez says she plans to pursue a career in pediatric surgery and was spending that day rereading her research paper to prepare for the symposium.

As a Future Farmers of America member, Sarente says she’s interested in becoming a large animal veterinarian and hopes to specifically work with FFA students.

“I know how hard it is to find a vet who can come out and see the animals really fast,” she said. “I’ve had troubles in trying to find a vet especially when there’s a bunch of shows going on.”

Sarente’s been shadowing veterinarian Daisy Espita at Fresno’s Valley Animal Center this summer, working with smaller animals.

“It’s really cool and eye-opening,” she said. “[Animals] still have surgeries and need blood drawn, but they also need help and have certain needs to help with their health.”

This summer, Sarente’s given vaccines to dogs and cats, weighing and checking their temperatures before surgery.

“I’ve seen exams where they check their ears,” she said. “On certain dogs, they can grow hair in their ears and they have to take out the hair. I’ve also seen surgeries and how the breathing tubes get inserted.”

Sarente said she enjoyed her experience this summer but still prefers working with large animals.

“I’ve got some hands on through FFA. I’ve been able to give them probiotics and walk them, do shots for the pigs,” she said.

Selma High alumni Ricardo Calixtro is a learning assistant for the Doctors Academy now and went through the program himself prior to his 2012 graduation.

Calixtro was among assistants helping the current DA students fine-tune their research papers that day. He said the program helped him explore various medical career options and know exactly what to do once he was writing research papers in college. Calixtro just earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology at Fresno State and wants to be a physician’s assistant.

“In most college classes, they don’t really explain the [research paper] format, so it’s helpful to go in with some background,” he said.

Calixtro said being in the DA program helps students get a first-hand view of college campuses and a glimpse into different medical fields through the internship.

“We took trips to the UCs and state schools and other campuses. You get to see how the environments differ,” he said. “Going through the program helps you mature and you get exposed to different medical professions, especially when you get to your internship site.”

Calixtro said he had interned with a dentist and realized that he’d actually prefer a different field of medicine.

“It’s an interesting profession, but I found out it wasn’t for me,” he said. “It’s better to find out then, rather than go through all the schooling and find out you don’t like that profession.”